The Gospel of the Kingdom

The Olivet Discourse

As I explained in the previous post a lot of Christians placed their faith in politics, people, and their hope in false prophecies regarding the reelection of Donald Trump.  Poor exegesis and perhaps no exegesis was the cause. Again, I did not want Joe Biden and I firmly believe that he and his administration represent abject evil. Still, God allowed it. He also allowed Nebuchadnezzar. As Christians, we need to depend on God and be guided by the Word instead of politics. Politics is the way of the world. Rather than viewing the times according to a new prophet with a new word from God we are commanded to study ourselves approved and rightly divide the Word of Truth. We are to view ourselves, the events of our lives, and the times in which we live through the lens of scripture.  Any serious study regarding the role of prophecy in the New Testament will quickly reveal that it involves Holy Spirit inspired preaching and teaching directly from scripture, not inspired additions to what is already written. That said, false prophecies are a mark of the end times.  So is persecution.  As for those who proclaim themselves to be apostles and able to operate in all the gifts, the qualification for such a title is given by Paul in 1 Cor 2 Cor 11. It involves being beaten, whipped, caned, shipwrecked, stranded at sea, starved, naked, thirsty, and robbed, considered a weakling, a fool, and persecuted by fellow believers, all the while being a servant to all and above all prioritizing one’s “deep concern for all the churches”. Martyrdom, not prosperity was their final reward.

Our Hope in Two Parts

We must understand that the Gospel message preached by the apostles was two-fold. The first was the Gospel of Salvation whereby Jesus conquered sin and death and made a way for all people to be reconciled to the Father by grace through faith that was in itself a gift so no one may boast. This is the meaning of Jesus’s words “It is finished”. The second was the Gospel of the Kingdom that remains to be fulfilled. Together they are Maranatha.  Jesus has come.  Jesus is coming. It was not a message of an earthly kingdom NOW, as even the apostles initially thought.  While the message was most certainly prophetic it had absolutely nothing to do with our prosperity or comfort in this life. Nor were the disciples consumed with themselves, their identities, or their own reflections as they imagined them to be in God’s eyes. Rather the Gospel of the Kingdom that they preached was an apocalyptic one rooted in the Old Testament, especially the book of Daniel.

So what time is it?

Jesus gives the disciples a near bullet-point outline of events leading up to the establishment of His Kingdom on earth in Mat 24 and the first part of what is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse.

He was extremely clear in answering the disciple’s question regarding the sign of His coming and the end of the age. He prefaced or book ended the outline by pointing to the Temple and saying,

“You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Mat 24:1-2

That prophecy was fulfilled when the second temple was destroyed by the Romans under Titus in 70AD.

The outline begins in Mat 24:3

  • First He said to be careful that no one deceives you that many would claim to be “Christ”. It is important to remember that the Bible was not written in English.  Therefore we must not take our understanding based upon our English Bible versions for granted. Christ is Greek for “Christos” and means “anointed”. Consider for a moment how flippantly we toss that word around today. “They will deceive many” Mat 24:4-5. While anyone claiming to be Jesus today is sure to be dismissed out of hand, “anointed” also refers to those who presume themselves qualified to speak in His name.  Many claim to be anointed today. Many are being deceived.
  • Then Jesus describes the coming birth pains. War and rumors of war, nation against a nation. While we tend to read “nation” as “country”, nation translates to ethnos or people group. It is the word from which the English word ethnicity is derived. There will be pestilences e.g. plagues and locusts, etc., famines and earthquakes. Of course, all of these have continued throughout history and there are multitudes of false prophets who have tried to time the second coming accordingly. That is perhaps one reason why so many pastors today avoid eschatology completely. We know for certain that all of these have increased in scope and frequency since Jesus was crucified. It would appear that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and storms, in particular, have increased in size and or frequency over the last several decades. Climate change activists warn of coming droughts and famines.
  • Then His followers will be hated, persecuted, and killed. This too has continued and is once again on the rise throughout the world today. One need only visit the Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors websites to see that global persecution of Christians is on the rise. More Christians have been martyred in the last century than on all previous centuries combined. Granted the severity of persecution in the US is nowhere near that of places like Iran, China, and Ethiopia to name a few. Yet given the admitted spirit and agenda of the current administration, its sanctioned organizations like BLM, ANTIFA, etc. and the growing negative public perception of Christians it’s not hard to imagine what could be coming soon.
  • And many will be offended, betray one another. I could be wrong but I am unaware of any other time in history when the Body of Christ has been so divided.
  • And hate one another.
  • Then many false prophets will deceive many.
  • And lawlessness will abound
  • And the love of many will grow cold.

It doesn’t require a statistician to see the exponential increase in these four in my lifetime alone. In addition to false teachings in the church, they are increasingly fueled by a post-modern and or neo-Marxist world view that eliminates the idea of objective truth and especially objective moral law. It is the same spirit of anti-Christ that resulted in the deaths of at least one hundred million people in the previous century alone. 

  • But those who endure will be saved.

The exact nature of that endurance is clarified in Rev 12:11

  • And (in the midst of all this) the gospel will be preached within all of the world as a witness to all Nations (ethnos, people groups) Please note the word “witness” does not refer to passing out tracks on a street corner. Witness means “Martyr”.

Then the end will come. Mat 24:15

This is the opposite bookend in the outline. The verses that follow further clarify what Jesus outlined here.

THIS IS IMPORTANT

You will notice that at no point did Jesus say the church will be evacuated (Raptured) and spared from the Great Tribulation. The truth be told the idea of a Pre-Tribulation rapture never existed before 1830.  Jesus was clear. The church must endure and the gospel will be preached amid, and as a result of, that enduring.  Those hungry for revival will be happy to know that a deep dive into Joel 2 will reveal that the greatest revival on earth will accompany the greatest tribulation the body of Christ has ever known.

Obviously, my flesh would prefer that the whole world came to Jesus amidst my own comfort and prosperity followed by a quick cloud ticket out before things get uncomfortable.

The fact remains that the gospel has always thrived the most amidst persecution.

In addition,

Tribulation, not prosperity is the seed of the Hope that does not disappoint. Rom 5:3-5

Suffering is part of God’s plan.

Keep in mind I am only sketching things out here.  Again, we know in apart and we all see as in a glass darkly. You might see things differently.  If so I’m happy, (actually excited) to look at any scripturally base argument that you (not a YouTube video) can provide.

Moving on…

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),.then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” Mat 24:15-16

The New Testament was not yet written during the Apostle’s missionary journeys, let alone the book of Revelation. The Book of Daniel was their primary Gospel. Hence Jesus would have expected them to know what He was talking about. The abomination of desolation was in direct reference to Dan 9:27Dan 11:31, and especially Dan 12:11-12.

For those who love deep dives,

Dan 12:11-12 gives and the exact timeline for when the Tribulation will begin and end.  Contrary to popular belief, Mat 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”  is not a broadly stated principle implying that Jesus could come at any time.  It specifically refers to the period between the end of the tribulation and the Dan 7 appearance of Jesus.  As for the tribulation itself, do the math.  1290+1335 = 2625×365 = 7.2 years. That is where we get the 7-year timeline for the tribulation.

– Suffice it to say that at some point the daily sacrifice will be taken away and the abomination of desolation set up. Dan 12:11 sets this time period at 1290 days or 3.5 years which according to my model would be the midpoint of the Tribulation. Those claiming that the A of D took place in Jesus’s day or the Dome of the Rock was it must ignore the context of Dan 12:11-12. The Dome construction was a six-year project completed in 691 AD. The daily sacrifice was taken away in 70AD. Even if we interpret a day as a year that leaves us with 621, not 1290. The only way the math works is if we take the week in Dan 9:27 to mean 7 years and “days” in Dan 12:11-12 as literal days. The only other option is that we are nowhere even close to the end and none of what I am saying matters. However, if  I am correct, the daily burnt offering will be re-implemented. It is alsoworth noting that Rabbinic law requires that the sacrifice be performed on the Temple Mount but not necessarily in the temple itself. At the very least a third altar needs to be constructed. It has. In fact, we saw a portable altar ready to be towed into place when we were in Israel. The problem is that Temple Mount is home to the Dome of the Rock which is a Muslim Mosque. Jews are forbidden to worship there even though it sits in the center of Jerusalem and the entire area is under the control of the Jordanians. 

Enter Donald Trump

Perhaps you heard of the Abraham Accords whereby President Trump brokered a deal that resulted in formerly hostile Arab Muslim nations making peace with Israel to include a realignment of powers that looks a lot like the Kings of the North and South in Eze 38.  (More on that later provided there is enough interest as this is already becoming a sermon outline.)

Perhaps more importantly, Saudi Arabia is now Israel’s ally and Jordan no longer has exclusive control over the Temple Mount. Saudi Arabia is the site of Mecca to which Muslims are expected to make at least one Hajj (pilgrimage) in their lifetime.  Therefore, in my opinion, the Temple Mount may be much less of a concern to them. 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has expressed concern over rumors that the Dome of the Rock will soon be replaced by a 3rd Jewish Temple. Of course, the Jewish Sanhedrin has been negotiating behind the scenes for years and preparing to begin construction within just days of receiving permission to return to the Temple Mount. Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in full support of this effort. 

My point here is that I am viewing world events through the lens of scripture.  The next event that believers should be watching for is not a miraculous restoration of traditional American values, as comforting as that would be, but the return of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount and the re-institution of the Daily sacrifice. 

At some point after that, the Anti-Christ who according to Ezekiel comes from Gog, which is somewhere in the area of present-day Northern Syria and Southern Turkey will be revealed.  He will be identified by the false peace in Dan 9 followed by the end of the daily sacrifice and the abomination of desolation. We can only speculate what that might be. Still, the back-to-back adjectives “abominable” and “desolate” imply that it will be pretty clear when it happens.

These two events mark the point where we can begin the 7-year count down.

What follows in Mat 24:16-28 pertains to details and instructions for Israel during the  Tribulation particularly in reference to Jer 30 and what is commonly known as The Time of Jacob’s Trouble. This will be the final and most severe chastisement of Israel such that if those days were not shortened no flesh would survive out of which the biblical, as opposed to the current self-appointed Remnant believers will emerge.

Mat 24:29-31 describes the return of Jesus and what many call the Rapture. This is in direct reference to Dan 7:13-14. Entire volumes have been written on this chapter in Daniel but suffice it to say that The Son of Man in Daniel is the Son of Man to which Jesus referred to Himself at least 78 times. It was His primary identity, declaration of His deity, and the main reason why the Jewish leaders wanted Him dead.

Mat 24:32-51 and Mat 25 provide more details regarding our preparation and response in parable form.  They are not separate events.

You may have noticed that I didn’t say a whole lot about the Book of Revelation here. The reason is simple.  It is the hardest to understand and characterized by the most insane and twisted interpretations of any book in the Bible. Hence a majority of eschatologically minded believers tend to be more concerned with avoiding the Mark of the Beast, than provoking the Jewish people to jealousy. The Book of Revelation is impossible to understand without a firm grasp of Old Testament end times prophecy.  Don’t even think about delving into Revelation without first understanding Daniel, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Joel, and Ezekiel for starters.

Finally, a correct understanding of eschatology is a fantastic evangelistic tool. Most people don’t want to hear they are sinners.  Almost everyone is interested in the End Times. That opens the door to the full Gospel message especially as we witness the fulfillment of end times prophecy.  A correct understanding of eschatology could also potentially determine whether a believer ends up in Heaven or Hell.  For example, I often wonder what might cause a great 2 Thes 2 falling away that would correspond with the man of perdition (the anti-Christ) being revealed?  What better cause could there be than a reported 71% of believers who currently adhere to a pre-tribulation rapture view suddenly, finding themselves left behind? What about those with a post-millennial view  committed to transforming the culture and “making earth great again” so Jesus can return?  What happens when everything they believed in and worked for is shaken and burned up and they face imprisonment and death? 

And you thought crushed MAGA dreams were bad?

Listen maybe I am completely wrong and the faithful will get a cloud ticket out of the tribulation? What do I know? After all, I’m only studying, not prophesying.  In that case, great! Apart from the last 16 years of being married to the most wonderful wife beyond anything I ever could have imagined, the majority of my time on earth has been brutal, full of tragedy, and heartbreaking. Maybe suffering is too much of a norm for me.  Or maybe I have a partial understanding of what Paul meant when he said,

To live is Christ. To die is gain.

I will continue to pray for the grace required to be faithful even unto death.

Maranatha!

Choose Your Hill

The likely duration of the devastation in Honduras is just starting to sink in following our outreach last week. The sense of powerlessness we felt as we passed miles and miles of tarp cities along the way is hard to describe.

1 min video no script just footage.

Meanwhile, Josh fell hard off a ladder and injured his shoulder. His arm is in a sling.  If that weren’t enough our ministry vehicle has big issues and 

We are grounded for a few weeks.

What to do, what to do?…

I know. How about we catch up on the news.

Errant Epistemology

As usual, our world is in turmoil over worldviews and politics.  As always there are many on both sides of the political sewer stream who believe they know the truth. Yet apart from hands on daily experience the only thing any of us really know for sure is the content of what we have been told or shown via some form of media. Like it or not most of what we consume only skews reality.  As a media creator myself I know that some of that skewing is inevitable. Some is by design.

Inevitable causes result from the emphasis being determined by the creator. If you watch one of my videos you inevitably see what impacts me. I want you to see and feel what I see and feel. That’s why I’m creating it. The greater my passion the more my own biases pass through the lens of your perception, world view, and life experience. You then draw your own conclusions and pass them onto others. The process goes on ad Infinitum.

On some level, every media consumer becomes a co-errant creator.

Skewing by design is intentional and may be used to honor or dishonor the subject.

Anyone who has been interviewed by me knows that I cut errors. Any hesitation, confusion, cussing, stuttering, or farting is removed such that even the most awkward and nervous subject looks like a seamless orator. I do this both for the sake of time and honor. The dark side of this is that people can be made to say things they never said.  All it takes is a simple switching of camera angles and adding b-roll to cover spliced clips.  For example, I could ask you what you thought about cockroaches in one question and what you think about puppies in the next then splice the answer to the first question onto the second and walla!  You have been transformed from a clean person into a genocidal puppy killer. 

Yes, it’s really that easy.

Viewing is skewing

The diminishing attention span and patience of viewers as well as the accelerated speed at which people scroll through SM messages requires videos to be shorter and shorter.  Advertisers know they have no more than 5-15 seconds to hook you or you will scroll through their message on your device.  That’s why they allow you the “Skip Ad” option. As a result, billions of people make instant and completely subjective decisions regarding truth and the nature of reality everyday based on media titles and headlines like “Trump Invokes Insurection Act” alone.

You don’t have the wisest serpent in the den to discern where this might lead.

What is True?

Four years ago on New Year’s Eve, we were en-route back to Kauai from Africa where we had attended the Iris Global Harvest School of Missions.

Africa was paradigm-shifting, to say the least.  We saw what it means to really lay it all down for the sake of the gospel.  We learned that while miracles and projects happen and doctrinal differences always arise, mission work a.k.a. Christianity begins and ends with intimacy with God and stopping for the one in front of you

Thankfully it wasn’t until we returned that we heard the myriad controversies regarding Heidi Baker. Like any famous person she is enshrined by some and bedeviled by others. Suffice it to say that anyone who has not personally encountered her on the mission field should stop talking.

The same applies to Christians talking about anyone’s character whom we only know via the media. As it turns out I have been duped too. Allow me to be the first to repent of this.

The entire body of Christ is comprised of fallen, cracked pots.

How easy it is to forget the brokenness that drew us to Christ in the first place.  Still, the body of Christ has had challenges with discerning and holding onto truth from the start. One minute the Corinthians are on fire for the gospel. Then getting rebuked for sexual immorality in next. 1 Cor 5 On a good day we prophecy in part, know in part, and see in a glass darkly. Therefore everything we do must be grounded in a love for one another that we model before others. John 13:35  Otherwise we become loud dystopic clangs in an already dying world. 1 Cor 13:1

There’s a lot of clanging today

I don’t know about you but I can be pretty fiery. It doesn’t take a whole lot of media viewing to stoke my stupidity and expose my deficits in this area.

Part of the problem is that our society has become an ocean of normalized narcissism where personal opinions and significance have become idols and are monetized by Social Media. Yup being angry at someone because they disagree with the ALMIGHTY ME is narcissistic. Calling for revolution or civil war is psychotic. It may be coming soon thanks to the new religion of

Self-aggrandizement and maligning others in the temple of the smartphone.

“The Social Dilemma” is an absolute must for anyone who has ever asked questions like “How could anyone believe the Marxist driven Portland riots were a peaceful protest” or “How could any Christian support a Nazi white supremacist homophobic rapist like Donald Trump?”

The answer is scarier than you might imagine.

About two years ago I wrote Truth or Trump where I discussed what I learned during my old Forex trading days regarding how media manipulates markets and political narratives for profit. I concluded that political rage is destroying the witness of Christians. In the Anatomy of Deception, I covered the economic theory of Reflexivity and what George Soros termed the Fertile Fallacy and the Manipulative Function by which he determines reality. These also drive markets, public opinion, and behavior. That all of the aforementioned entities are working together to reform humanity in the forge of social media is- well… terrifying.

“The Social Dilemma” was a proverbial capstone.

God and Government – Fear Not

While there are all sorts of typological analogies that can be drawn from the Old Testament regarding kings and kingdoms, it is God who establishes both in accordance with His disposition toward nations. Our God-given rights can only be revoked by Him.

His disposition toward Israel in Habakkuk 1 and Jerimiah 19 looks very different from Isaiah 45.

Hence He established both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.

Those who assume God didn’t establish Joe Biden and stand ready to redo 1776 should consider the almost prophetic words of John Adams in a letter to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798.

“We shall have the Strongest Reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and insolence: this Country will be the most miserable habitation in the World. Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition revenge or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The operative question here is; do the words, “moral and religious people” describe our nation today?

If that gets you thinking then you might be ready to read The Killing of Uncle Sam.  Whatever you might think of Dr. Rodney Howard Brown’s controversial theology, he is writing as a historian. It definitely lends perspective to the words “turn from their wicked ways” in 2 Chron 7:14

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The bibliography alone is worth twice the price of his book. 

Many of problems we face today are largely a result of our nation’s collective obsession with Netflix and sports instead of history, civics, and sound Bible exegesis.  That two generations increasingly view what amounts to neo-Marxism as compassionate Biblically sound doctrine is a reaping of what we have sown.

Today we are in a very precarious position.

Everyone is being gaslit.

Everyone needs to question their epistemology.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s … thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” – Mark Twain –

Our desire for and self-proclaimed God-ordained entitlement to justice comfort and prosperity is the source of our undoing.  That’s the round about way of saying, “mammon kills!” Those are hard words but Jesus had hard words for those who should have known better. They are preserved for our edification.  He and the apostles preached and modeled a message of total surrender of everything but the gospel.  In the end, none but Judas backed down.  All were beaten and killed for preaching it.

They did so amidst the following political climate and under rulers whom they never once opposed on political grounds.

  • Herod Antipas imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist in 28AD for criticizing his marriage.
  • In 37AD well known Caligula embarked on a reign of terror which included the execution of James and the imprisonment of Peter from which he miraculously escaped.
  • He was succeeded in 41AD by Claudius, who expelled all the Jews from Rome.
  • 62 AD saw Nero who blamed/set up Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD.  He is best known for burning Christians as human candles and sending them to their deaths in the amphitheater. Both Paul and Peter were executed by Nero in 66AD.  Nero committed suicide in 68AD and was succeeded by Vespasian, 69AD.
  • Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. He died in 81AD and was succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.
  • Domitian continued to persecute Christians because they wouldn’t worship the Roman gods or sacrifice to the Emperor.  He exiled the apostle John to the  island of Patmos in 89AD

The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount define our rights.

Here are some more hard words.

The gospel is not a call to political change, comfort, prosperity or even justice in this life. The Gospel is a call to die.

There is a poignant scene in the passion of the Christ where Mary is seen clutching fists full of the earth as her son is being nailed to the cross.  She rises from her knees in conjunction with the soldiers pulling the cross into its vertical position then opens her fists to release the earth as the cross drops into the supporting hole. No one including the disciples understood what was happening until after the resurrection.  The very act that brought eternal hope to the world emptied all of them of any hope they had in it.

All of us must get to this point.

Cathy and I often wonder how we and others would react to the crucifixion of our King if it happened today.

I suspect many would be calling for revolution and civil war.

Rev 13:10 is clear.

There is a lesson for America there.

As for us our heart and our hill are best described in the words Cathy recently wrote to a friend.

Bringing Hope in a dying world is our heart cry. That Hope on a starving person’s death bed is longer lasting than any hot meal. Of course, a hot meal is good and important too. But knowing that when they leave this world, even if they are all alone, that Jesus’ arms are open and, ready to receive them into eternity with Him is all that will matter then. That said, our prayer request is that this message of Hope will cross the language barriers, that Holy Spirit is active and Jesus is glorified.  That we will continue to hear and be obedient to God’s leading and that

His will be done!”  

Now might be a good time to pause from climbing the summit of success and define the hill upon which you are willing to die.

Maranatha!       

Better than Nineveh

Most Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled and therefore were not written directly to us, or about us. Nevertheless, many of us like to cherry-pick and incorporate selected verses for ourselves. We love the assurance of verses like Jeremiah 29:11 originally addressed to Israel. We apply significance to ourselves with verses like Isaiah 61:1 even though it’s about Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 declaring his identity in the temple 700 years later. Granted these verses continue to edify us regarding God’s unchanging character, plan, and purpose. Even so, why do we only apply the warm fuzzy words instead of hard ones like Jeremiah 14 or Isaiah 5:20?

Why not Nahum?

Approximately one hundred fifty years after its collective repentance and subsequent reprieve as a result of Jonah’s obedience, Nineveh was back in the biblical judgment news.

While Nahum was clear that “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” Nah 1:7 like any true prophet he was also clear that God isn’t playing games and “reserves wrath for His enemies.” Nah 1:2

Still the question remains; who are His enemies?

He is clear in his rebuke and declaration of God’s judgment. Nineveh had become a nation of many races and was sustained by greed. Substance abuse was rampant. Nah 1:9-10 There was violence in the streets, leaders plotted against the Lord and looting abounded in all its forms. Nah 2:9

But looting was not limited to rioters in the streets. Nahum describes Nineveh’s leaders as “swarming locusts, and grasshoppers”. Nahum 3:17 Grasshoppers and locusts pillage and never produce. They disappear in the light of the sun.

As in the days of Jeremiah who rebuked the lying prophets for their ear-tickling positivity and their claims that God said things that He never did, Jerm 14:13-15 the people of Nineveh had become complacent and perhaps oppositional. Apparently, they thought they were immune to God’s judgments. To which Nahum replies,

“Are you better than populous (Thebes)?…” “…(who) “was carried away, into captivity”. Nah 3:8-10

While his meaning may not have been quite as literal as the interpretation might be today, Nahum declares,

“Your people (men) have become women” the gates of your land are open to your enemies.” Nah 3:13

And finally

“Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; Your nobles rest in the dust. Your people are scattered on the mountains, And no one gathers them.” Nah 3:18

There are a lot of ear-tickling, positivity prophets, and preachers these days. Almost all of them are declaring that “sword and famine shall not touch our land” and that peace and assurance shall abound. Jer 14:13 They minister to individual self-esteem at the expense of salvation and stoke the flames of personal significance instead of fear of our God who is a consuming fire. Heb 12:29

All declare an imminent revival.

Few call for repentance.

Everyone loves them. Everyone speaks well of them. Luke 6:26

The Bible is ultimately the most positive and hopeful message mankind has ever seen. Yet it is a conditional one. It’s time frame is eternal. It demands we abandon our ways and become set apart (Holy). This process begins with repentance from sin. Apart from this, no message, no word, no action on our part means a thing.

If you compare the state of the world today with the likeness of Israel back then; what do you see? Do you see a pleased God declaring Jeremiah 29:11 over society at large or do you see Isaiah 5:20 and Jeremiah Chapter fourteen?

Given that God’s character, plan, and purpose do not change and Ecc 1:9 explains that history repeats; why would anyone believe that it won’t repeat now?

What does true love look like in the context of today?

What kind of messages do people really need?

If one old testament prophecy can be appropriated today, then all can be be appropriated.

Nineveh was overrun and destroyed.

Are we better than Nineveh?

Character

We are locked down in Honduras as I write. COVID cases have begun to double on a daily basis. The borders and airports are closed. No one can come in or go out. There’s a 6 month to 2-year jail sentence awaiting anyone who violates a curfew.  Hondurans in our little community are obedient and calm. They are familiar with crises.  Two older American friends in another part of the country are locked down too.  He is a retired architect and has had a series of strokes. His wife is left to cope with his rapidly deteriorating condition by herself. They don’t have COVID but COVID is placing his life in jeopardy.

Meanwhile there are about two hundred North Americans, most of whom are short term missionaries stranded here.  Several of them are demanding their rights and that the US State Dept does something to evacuate them.  We strongly encouraged people to postpone their trips weeks before COVID first reared its head.  Unfortunately confirmation bias reigned supreme. I guess their plans, ministry and mission were too important.  I can empathize. I remember thinking and feeling the same way as a short-term missionary myself. 

As Seth Barnes founder of Adventures and Missions, (AIM) an organization with whom we serve as World Race GAP Year Coaches, said in his blog Courage and Prudence

“We are now in a wartime footing in most of the country. Most of us have no idea how to live life there. The things that worked before no longer work. COVID-19 is changing everything.”

Several months ago, I gave a teaching based on the book

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy-What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. By William Straus and Neil Howe. I had no idea at the time how prophetic it was.

Howe and Strauss are Historians and social scientists who observed an Ecclesiastes 3 cycle in American history that shows a new era, a season or “Turning” every 20 -25 years. Four turns or seasons amount to a Saeculum or the length of a long lifetime. In simplest terms, the most recent “First Turning” 1945 -65 was the “High” and could be likened to a honeymoon period.  It was marked by the end of WWII and the birth to the American dream. Families were strengthened as were social institutions like schools, local governments and church. Individual roles both inside and outside the family were clearly defined.

The “Second Turning”, 1965-85, the “Awakening”, was a period of questioning all those things. It was a time of spiritual upheaval, when the old order came under attack. It was marked by things like the birth of ERA, the Vietnam war and the subsequent student lead peace movements, the Water Gate Trial and Impeachment of Richard Nixon. Basically, every social institution was challenged. 

The “Third Turning”, 1985-2005, the “Unraveling” was a time when the individual reigned supreme. Punk rock and rap glorified criminality and anti-social behavior, swinging, divorce and open homosexuality became normalized. And culminated with the HIV AIDS epidemic and the destruction of the twin towers in New York.  Post Modernism grew to become the dominant world view and continued corruption and government scandals fueled an already growing distrust of nearly all established authority and institutions.  

The “Fourth Turning” 2005 -25 is the “Crisis”. We are in the thick of it now.

As Straus and Howe wrote in 1996.

“The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. . .The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort — in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.”

Howe and Strauss predicted we Americans will be forced to make decisions that mirror the hardest ones made by our predecessors as

“great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order”.  “And it will require us to admit that our faith in linear progress has often amounted to a Faustian bargain with our children. Faust always ups the ante, and every bet is double or nothing. Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time.”

There is always talk of the end of days whenever a major crisis hit. I don’t claim to be a prophet and I certainly don’t know for sure.  My own bias is to doubt it.  Even so, my wife Cathy made a keen observation the other day. The beginning of sorrows that Jesus spoke about in Mat 24:8-13 translates to “Birth Pangs”.  Birth pangs progressively increase in frequency and intensity until the water breaks and the baby is born.  If this is the beginning of sorrows it will usher in the millennial reign of Christ. Fourth Turns gradually come to an end and are followed by another High.  

In either case if we are to survive in a war time footing, we need to accurately discern the time. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of discernment in Mathew 16:1-4.

“Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Everything they needed to identify Jesus was already in the scriptures.  The problem was that Jesus did not match their interpretation and resulting expectations and Jesus remained hidden in plain view.

A lot of us have the same problem today.

Signs, wonders and spiritual gifts are all the rage these days.  Myriad charismatic leaders inspire people to follow in their footsteps.  Evangelists, prophets, those with gifts of healing and an angle on prosperity abound. Those with the most dramatic, feel good performances and the biggest followings on social media become heroes of the faith even if their teachings are scripturally unsound.  Jesus said,

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26 and “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Mat 24:37 Noah preached repentance and righteousness 2 Pet 2:5 then built an ark in the middle of the desert. He was mocked and rejected as a result.  How much more are those who preach the same message in 2 Timothy 3 world rejected?  

Cathy just read some headlines as I write. 

“Vegas strip club offers drive through peep shows” in response to COVID and “Man beaten to death by mob for having Corona Virus.” 

You might be on fire for Jesus.  But a quick skim of the daily headlines should be all one needs to discern the times and the message that the world needs.

Discernment drives action

I’ve heard people quote and seen people post Psalm 91 so many times in the past few weeks that everyone including unbelievers should have it memorized by now. Problem is – many receive it as a magic incantation that allows them to fearlessly continue with their lives as if nothing was happening.

A cursory word study quickly reveals that dwelling in secret place of Psalm 91:1 upon which one’s protection is contingent, refers to both the secret place Jesus talked about in Mat 6:6 . It also means a literal “shelter, a hiding place.” 

By the way, has anyone stopped to consider that COVID could peak during Passover?

I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

If nothing else this situation is facing us with a very real question.  God or mammon?  

Many young people are assuming, they are invincible and choosing to party rather than comply with recommendations, warnings and ordinances.  We have young friends and relatives who seem utterly oblivious to the crisis at hand.

Spring Break 2020

The keys to surviving a crisis and thriving in the subsequent high lay in how we respond. There were people who jumped to their deaths from high-rises when the market crashed in 1929.  Those more prudent made fortunes. The most grievous error we can make is to fail to discern the time. We may assume a Fourth Turn crisis is the end and enter what AIM calls the “Q” (quit) zone. Or we could mistake the crisis for a First Turn high as so many spring breakers are doing now.

Good things come out of crisis. Rom 8:28

“Great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order.”   That means a return to First Turn values. People have been praying for and prophesying revival for decades.  Yet how soon we forget that revivals begin with radical repentance.  More often than not this repentance is preceded by an event that causes people to recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. An event like like the great San Francisco earthquake that preceded the Azuza Street revival in 1915.   Yes, Jesus healed and does heal people but His primary reason for coming was to be a propitiation for our sin. He came to rescue us from hell.  Miracles and healing look more spectacular to our disbelieving and entertainment hungry eyes. But they are secondary to dealing with our sin. John 1:22   As Ray Comfort says, “God comes to us with a subpoena in one hand and a pardon in the other.”  We love to tell people about the loving pardon while avoiding the subpoena all together. 

As the current COVID crisis grows, I have yet to hear anyone under the age of 85 preach a message of repentance.  There seems to be a correlation between this and the fact that those 80 and older were alive during the previous Fourth Turn.  Hope for a nation that has murdered over 61,000,000 babies’ since Roe v Wade, maligned the name of Jesus as a matter of public policy and rejected His substitutionary work on the cross isn’t going to be found in Psalm 91 without embracing 2 Chron 7:14 first.

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

My oldest surviving uncle Lester will be 90 in June.  He built his own sugar house and makes his own maple syrup in Ashfield Massachusetts because he needs something to do when it’s too cold to work. 

His wife Nancy is a retired biologist with a passion for conservation.

The last time I visited, Aunt Nancy had just chased a mother bear and her cubs away from her beehives on foot. At dinner Lester and I spoke about the last Fourth Turn. Uncle Lester is a retired Navy Vet. His brother fought at Normandy.  He doesn’t speak a lot but when he does it behooves people to find the parable. Uncle Lester grew up poor during the Great Depression but says he didn’t know it. He never complains and talked a lot about the value and power of gratitude and community during hard times.  Elders in places like Ashfield Mass still work hard and have a lot of character. They are our national treasures.

I recently saw a meme directed at chronic COVID complainers.

If our culture persists in a collective belief that our individual rights reign supreme, that we are somehow owed something and that it’s the government’s job to provide it for free at the expense of other people simply because they have more; then I can assure you that the authoritarian outcome or worse mentioned by Straus and Howe is almost certain.

Instead I found an example of the requisite attitude for success, especially for Christians during a Fourth Turn in Acts 14. During the Apostle Paul’s 1st missionary journey he and Baranabas were kicked out of Antioch. So they traveled 85 miles to preach the Gospel in Iconium. Unbelieving Jews stirred up dissension and tried to beat and stone him.  So, Paul and Barnabas moved on to Lystra and Derbe where taught and people were healed. Everyone thought they were Zeus and Hermes and started to worship them.  No sooner had they put an end to that craziness then the previous Jews who had followed them from Iconium showed up.  This time they were successful in stoning Paul.  They dragged what they thought was his dead body outside the city gate and left him there. The disciples gathered around him probably in mourning. But before they could do anything Paul jumped up brushed himself off and went back into the city where;  

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

This May we will have lived in Honduras for three years. We’ve been through our share of crises and we stocked up on beans and rice a few weeks ago in anticipation of what is happening now. The other day we gave some away to a neighbor in need. I’ve been racking my brain as to how we are going to feed people when the food runs out. What will we do if someone gets sick?  How will we care for people?  Last night some girls from the tiny Catholic church down the road delivered dinner to our door.  Being a full-time missionary is teaching me just how unimportant I am.  

I don’t know what is happening or is going to happen. If you read my previous blogs, my conclusions regarding COVID remain the same. 

Believe what we want “We still don’t know jack.”  

What I do know from both God’s Word and my own experience is that

Jesus did not come to give us our best life now. He came to redeem and transform us.

Everything will be shaken. Only what can’t be shaken will remain. Heb 12:26-28

Who we are and what we do “will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” Only that which is of God will survive. 1Cor 3:12-15

While our eternal hope is definitely in Jesus. Our ability to remain in that hope will be determined by our individual and collective character.  Character is produced by perseverance. Tribulation is its catalyst. Rom 5:3-7

Please keep us in prayer. Apart from divine intervention we are in big trouble if COVID gets a hold of us.

If you are receiving this it’s because we love you.

En El Nombre De Jesus!